WASHINGTON, D.C.— Status of a controversial citizenship question is still up in the air after United States of America President Donald Trump vowed to have the question included in the 2020 Census.
On June 27, the U.S Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s reasoning behind adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census is in violation of United States law, because it is considered “arbitrary and capricious.” But the president took to Twitter on July 3 saying that his administration will continue to work toward adding the question.
In the court’s unanimous decision, they wrote: “After a bench trial, the District Court determined that respondents had standing to sue. On the merits, it ruled that Secretary (Wilbur Ross’) action was arbitrary and capricious, based on a pretextual rationale, and violated the Census Act, and held that respondents had failed to show an equal protection violation.”
The argument centers around whether a question about an individual’s citizenship status should be allowed on the 2020 Census.
Trump administration lawyers had argued that the reason behind adding a citizenship question was to uphold and enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But in fact, the Supreme Court ruled that this argument was shown to be a conclusion the Trump administration had come to after the fact.
In other words, the court ruled that the Trump administration’s supposed reason to add a citizenship question was inconsistent and thus, did not hold water.
According to the United States Department of Justice, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was meant to prevent voter discrimination. Signed into law by former United States of America President Lyndon B. Johnson, the act was a response to incidents where voters were turned away through discrimination.
“Congress determined that the existing federal anti-discrimination laws were not sufficient to overcome the resistance by state officials to enforcement of the 15th Amendment,” the Department of Justice wrote. The 15th Amendment gave everyone the right to vote regardless of race or color.
“The legislative hearings showed that the Department of Justice’s efforts to eliminate discriminatory election practices by litigation on a case-by-case basis had been unsuccessful in opening up the registration process.”
The Supreme Court sent the case and question back to the Census Bureau so that officials could look for further explanation as to why a question like this is necessary.
For the moment, the question is being prevented from being added to the 2020 Census.
Local officials in Montgomery County and nationwide have noted their concern regarding the addition of such a question.
The concern is that a citizenship question will become a barrier in getting an accurate count of people in the United States, which is ultimately what the census is meant to do.
If individuals are concerned about the ramifications to answering the survey honestly, they might not respond to it at all. An inaccurate count of the people living in each community also is problematic because census data play a big part in the allocation of funds.
“I am frustrated by the ongoing dysfunction surrounding the placement of the citizenship question on the 2020 census. It is clear to me that its possible placement is nothing more than a political maneuver to undercount minority populations, particularly Hispanics,” Montgomery County Councilmember Gabe Albornoz said. “I sincerely hope that our courts continue to see through this charade and ensure the continued integrity of our census process. There is a great deal at stake.”
Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman has also been an opponent of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Following the Supreme Court decision on June 27, Ashman released a statement noting the importance of the census.
“It is imperative that the census provide an accurate and comprehensive count of every person living in this country, regardless of immigration status,” he wrote. “Everyone in our community needs to be counted in order for Gaithersburg to be accurately represented in all of this. We are hopeful that the removal of the proposed citizenship question would allay fears from any in our community who might prefer not to disclose their citizenship status.”
He went on to note that by law, the Census Bureau is not allowed to disclose survey information that identifies any individual and that participating in the census should have no negative repercussions.
Back in February, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich explained that census data is also important because it determines how much representation an area receives in Congress.
“Not having everyone counted can result in a loss of millions of dollars of funds vital for county programs and services,” he said.
Even if an individual does not fill out the census or does so incorrectly, they still take advantage of the resources provided by the government. Local programs and governmental services are used by all, whether or not there is a representative count. The difference is that when everyone is counted, local governments have a better understanding of where resources need to be allocated.
County Council President Nancy Navarro also released a statement in February highlighting the importance of an accurate count and the danger of adding a question that asks about a person’s legal status.
“Essential services that all the people who live, work, and play here rely on are determined, in part, from census data. However, we are faced with a unique challenge with the 2020 Census: Adding a citizenship question would deter millions of immigrants across the U.S. from participating,” she wrote.
The fight over the citizenship question will continue as the Trump administration continues to push for its addition.